Pamela Colman Smith - my forthcoming book
Artist, Pamela Colman Smith, is best known for illustrating the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck published in 1910. It is difficult at first sight to see how this relates to Catholicism but Pamela was received into the Catholic Church in 1911, remaining a devoted believer until her death in Bude in 1951. So, while she had been a member of an occult organisation, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, illustrating the tarot deck for Arthur Waite, she was simultaneously preparing for a serious change in faith and direction, working towards her reception into the Catholic Church. It is this intense sense of faith which led her from London to Cornwall, and this aspect of her life which has proven most obscure, fascinating and enigmatic.
I first encountered Pamela while writing my popular local history books on the coastal town of Bude for Amberley Publishing. I grew increasingly intrigued by her mystery. Pixie Smith rather took over my life. Equally, I was especially perplexed by why Pixie gave up her life in bohemian London, where she was an illustrator and storyteller, mixing with luminaries like Ellen Terry, Bram Stoker, and Henry Irving, to move to the stunning but isolated Lizard in Cornwall on some kind of Catholic mission.
Having read as many sources as I could access, I contacted the ECHA, receiving some very helpful information from Angie Hodges who also visited Pamela’s home on the Lizard that summer. Some of Angie’s husband’s photos are included in the book (publication due August 2019) for when I had visited the house, it was locked and derelict. Fittingly, the house is now owned by an artist and her family. I also visited the Catholic Diocesan archives in Exeter to inform my research, meeting the extremely helpful Sister there. The archives also contain beautiful vestments.
There is no team of researchers behind my book, to be published by Fonthill. It has been a real labour of love, fuelled by my fascination for Pamela combined with my love of Bude, the beautiful town where Pamela moved to with her friend, Nora Lake, during 1943. There is still much that is not known about Pamela, but I hope my book, while not the complete story, will shed some additional light on the woman who, following her conversion, became an enduring Catholic, embracing a total change of lifestyle and promoting worship on the non-conformist Lizard.
Pamela has an increasingly large following for her tarot artwork ( it is the world’s best selling deck) but I want to set the record straight for I sincerely believe that, to Pamela, her Catholic belief was much more important than what went before it.